Jewish children going to bed hungry in kosher cost of living crisis

One retailer said the cost of kosher food had increased by 25 per cent this year


Man shopping in a supermarket while on a budget. He is looking for low prices due to inflation, standing looking at his phone in front of a row of freezers. He is living in the North East of England.

Jewish children are going to bed hungry and parents are having to choose between buying clothes or food as the nationwide cost of living crisis hits the community particularly hard.

One retailer estimated that the cost of kosher food had increased by as much as 25 per cent this year, or four times the inflation rate for non-kosher food.

Jewish aid charity Give It Forward Today (GIFT) said it had seen a 50 per cent rise in the number of families appealing for help over the last 12 months.

Demand on local charities is surging as kosher food prices have rocketed even higher than soaring inflation, which currently stands at nine per cent.

GIFT, which provides families with a weekly food parcel, said that a year ago, it was giving 250 families a weekly dry food parcel. That number now stands at 350.

Charity bosses said they expected this figure to rise even further as people struggle to keep up with rising bills, fuel costs and the cost of kosher food.

The charity, which also provides 150 cooked meals a week to the most vulnerable and isolated clients, said it is preparing to double its capacity again in the coming months, to cope with the growing demand.

The distressing picture emerged as inflation has reached a 40-year high.

One Jewish single mother told the JC: “I still don’t know how I am going to cover the monthly costs of just living. My heart hurts when my children tell me their school shoes don’t fit and I haven’t the money to buy a new pair… but that’s our current reality.”

She is one of 350 parents across London and Manchester receiving weekly food parcels from GIFT.

One kosher retailer told the JC: “Prices haven’t just gone up, they are going up weekly and it is a disaster.

“Food has gone up 25 per cent in a year. We get emails from suppliers each week with increases on products and our prices are going up weekly.”

The latest official figures show the annual rate of non-kosher food and drink inflation far lower, at 6.7 per cent in April, although it is forecast to increase further.

The retailer, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was finding it difficult trying to run a business while keeping costs down for his customers.

He added: “Prices that we are giving now on products that are on special offer are more expensive than the items were six months ago without an offer.

“I had a phone call from an elderly customer this week who made his order online and came to pay and they had a problem. He didn’t have enough money to pay and his wife was ill in hospital.

“I gave him 50 per cent off and said pay what you can for now, because I know he needs to keep kosher.”

Michelle Barnett, GIFT’s founding director, said: “We have taken action to increase the amount of food support that is going out to our recipient families.

“Whereas previously, our service users would choose between dry food and fruit and vegetables, now we are sourcing and providing both.”

Mrs Barnett said that the demand for help had grown since the onset of the pandemic. The charity has been receiving more referrals from other welfare organisations, such as Jewish Care, Norwood, Jami, and Jewish Women’s Aid .

She said that GIFT had also seen a rise in self-referrals from individuals, as well as single mothers suffering from domestic abuse and homelessness.

The JC spoke to an observant family in Manchester for whom the rising cost of living had made it hard to keep shabbat and religious festivals.

Without GIFT’s weekly food parcels and vouchers for meat, they said, they would have been unable to cope.

The leading social care charity for the Greater Manchester Jewish community, the Fed, also warned that things were likely to get “much worse” for those unable to meet the cost of living.

The charity told the JC it was supporting one in seven Jewish homes which were affected by the cost of living. It had seen a 55 per cent increase in demand over the past year, the charity added.

Raphi Bloom, Director of Fundraising and Communications for the Fed, said: “We are already working with some of the most vulnerable people in the community and we’re seeing more people coming to us for grants for things they could previously afford.”

Last year, the charity said it had helped people apply for £150,000 worth of benefits and expected that to increase “significantly” in light of rising utility bills, fuel costs and inflation.

The Fed said that this year, it needs to raise £1.9 million to support the increase in demand compared to £1.5 million last year.

In Stamford Hill, the Jewish Community Council said children were going to sleep hungry because families were unable to meet the rising cost of food and utility bills.

A spokesperson said: “We are seeing a huge increase in families reaching out to us for help for food services, especially over Pesach. We are providing food vouchers and weekly food packages delivered to their homes, but the reality is children are going to sleep hungry.”

The Interlink Foundation, the umbrella organisation for strictly Orthodox charities, said families within the Charedi community are increasingly feeling the negative effects of the rising cost of living, particularly with regard to food and energy.

Michelle Minsky, head of the United Synagogue’s Chesed Department, said it was currently supporting 150 members a week with food parcels and expected that number to rise, “given the rising cost of food and energy in particular.”

In response to the growing demand, it announced that it was launching a hunger campaign to support those in the community who had fallen into food poverty as the cost of living crisis deepens.

The United Synagogue food parcel deliveries began as a Covid support measure for families who had lost income and could no longer make ends meet.

But the organisation said that the fact that these numbers did not fall as the pandemic restrictions ended suggests that people still needed the help, even if they’ve now found work.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive